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Live Game Thread: Missouri targets first NCAA Tournament victory since 2010 against Utah State

The No. 7 seed Tigers look to avoid upset from the No. 10 Aggies in Sacramento.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Semifinals - Alabama vs Missouri Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri 76 | Utah State 65


1st Half Notes

  • Noah Carter with an acrobatic finish around the rim. Tigers look active early on.
  • Both teams are cold from behind the arc to start this game, but Carter breaks the seal on the basket.
  • 16:54: The Red Sea just parted for DeAndre Gholston. He went untouched for an easy dunk to extend the lead.
  • Early on, Tigers have been able to effectively take the Aggies off the bounce. Superior speed is playing a role.
  • D’Moi Hodge with two steals and a 3-pointer already.
  • Gates with a visible smile on the sideline. He appears to be very pleased with the start of this game, which should come as no surprise.
  • Carter and Brown’s penetration into the paint has been the difference thus far. They’ve been able to either score or distribute at will from down low.
  • 13:45: Aidan Shaw soars for a rebound among four Utah State defenders. He’s clearly taken Dennis Gates’ recent challenges to heart.
  • Brown just took Akin to the rim and made it look easy. Akin is probably the only defender that can physically matchup with Brown, so that is certainly a good sign for Mizzou.
  • 8:40: Kobe Brown back into the game with two fouls. Sean East II and Aidan Shaw also have two fouls, and the Aggies are in the bonus already.
  • This is one of the worst shooting performances of Utah State’s season. An 0-for-8 start from behind the arc is foreign to this group.
  • 6:00: Gates takes a timeout as Utah State goes on a quick 5-1 run.
  • Utah State is 10-for-14 from inside the arc and 0-for-9 from behind it. Not at all what anybody expected.
  • Brown is really showing off his mid-range game today.
  • Utah State now up to eight turnovers in the half.
  • Ashworth is beginning to find his offensive groove. He’s been able to get to the rim off the bounce, which he wasn’t doing in the opening minutes.

2nd Half Notes

  • The Aggies’ first three of the game gives them a lead early in the second half. Gates takes a timeout.
  • Two straight steals for Mizzou lead to some easy looks around the rim. Mizzou retakes the lead.
  • Utah State has appeared to find their stoke from behind the arc.
  • Gholston just got away with a hook on that lay-up.
  • Certainly seems like this game is going to be played at a much faster pace in the second half.
  • Some sloppy play on both ends of the floor from Missouri has given Utah State another lead.
  • Coming out of the timeout, Gates draws up a play to get Kobe Brown some deep post position. Offense will likely run through him down the stretch.
  • 9:07: Brown with an incredible reverse dunk to tie the game up, and he follows it up with a 3-pointer to give Mizzou a 52-51 lead.
  • The man is feeling it right now. Brown hits another 3-pointer on a step-back, and Akin can not guard him on the perimeter.
  • 6:33: Robert Odom called for a technical foul, sending Nick Honor to the free throw line. He misses both. It’s ok, cause Mr. Brown has his back with yet another 3-pointer, and he’s now up to 19.
  • Hodge picked up right where Brown left off, as he has now hit two 3-pointers in the past three minutes. Tigers are heating up at the exact right time.
  • Brown and East II each with three fouls.
  • NICK HONOR. The man delivers in the clutch yet again with another step-back 3-pointer.
  • And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Missouri’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2010. On to the Round of 32.

Pregame Updates

  • Today’s starters are: Honor, Hodge, Gholston, Carter and Brown.

5 Fan Questions:

  1. Who will lead the team in scoring?
  2. How many 3-pointers will D’Moi Hodge hit?
  3. Will Mizzou have over or under 10 forced turnovers?
  4. How many points will Kobe Brown have?
  5. Which players will score in double-figures?

Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.

Missouri men’s basketball heard its name called on Selection Sunday for just the third time since 2013, earning a No. 7 seed in the South Region. The Tigers’ path to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2010 will begin Thursday against Mountain West challenger and No. 10 seed Utah State.

That last tournament victory also came in the 7-10 matchup, as then-No. 10 Missouri took down No. 7 Clemson 86-78. Now, nearly 13 years to the date, the Tigers will look to avoid an infamous “7-10 upset.”

In the history of the NCAA Tournament, 58 teams seeded at No. 10 have defeated their opening round No. 7 seed opponent. Most recently, No. 10 Miami toppled No. 7 USC a season ago, while 2019 and 2021 each featured at least two of these upsets.

Utah State is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since earning back-to-back bids in 2019 and 2021.* However, the Aggies dropped both of those contests, falling to 6-24 in their tournament history. Their last victory was all the way back in 2001, and they have lost nine consecutive tournament games since that win.

That rocky record is an epitome of the entire Mountain West, which holds a 22-55 all-time record in NCAA Tournament games. The conference, despite becoming more competitive in recent years, is 5-17 in the big dance since 2013, including no victories since 2018.

The Southeastern Conference, by contrast, tallied five victories in the NCAA Tournament just last season, but Kentucky in 2012 is the last team to win a championship, while Auburn is the last program to reach a Final Four (2019).

Missouri may not have those same aspirations at the forefront of its journey, but it will be looking to pick up an invaluable postseason victory under first-year coach Dennis Gates. The former Cleveland State head coach led the Vikings to the NCAA Tournament in 2021, in which they lost to No. 2 Houston, an eventual Final Four team.

In a 24-win season that has featured several memorable moments and accomplishments, the Tigers will have yet another opportunity to create a lasting image for Missouri fans who believe in Gates’ vision to one day hang banners in Mizzou Arena.

*The 2020 NCAA Tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Missouri’s NCAA Tournament Info

When: Thursday, March 16

Where: Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California

Game Time: 12:40 PM CT


Ken Pom Win Probability: 38%

Odds: Missouri +2

RockMNation has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though RockMNation may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

The Starters


PG: Nick Honor (Grad, 8 PPG)

SG: D’Moi Hodge (Grad, 14.8 PPG)

SF: DeAndre Gholston (Grad, 10.7 PPG)

PF: Kobe Brown (SR, 15.8 PPG)

C: Mohamed Diarra (JR, 3.5 PPG)

Key Depth: Noah Carter (SR, C, 9.5 PPG), Sean East II (SR, PG, 7.3 PPG), Tre Gomillion (Grad, SF, 4.8 PPG) and Aidan Shaw (FR, PF, 2.8 PPG)

Utah State

PG: Steven Ashworth (JR, 16.3 PPG)

SG: Max Shulga (JR, 12.1 PPG)

SF: Sean Bairstow (SR, 10.4 PPG)

PF: Taylor Funk (SR, 13.3 PPG)

C: Trevin Dorius (SR, 5.9 PPG)

Key Depth: Dan Akin (SR, C, 12 PPG), RJ Eytle-Rock (SR, SG, 3.1 PPG) and Zee Hamoda (SO, SF, 4.3 PPG)

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Team Comparison: Missouri and Utah State

Team Stats Missouri Utah State
Team Stats Missouri Utah State
Overall Record 24-9 26-8
KenPom Rank 51 18
NET Rating 42 18
Points Per Game 80.1 79.1
Opponent PPG 74.8 70
3-PT % 36.10% 38.50%
Free Throw % 75.80% 76.70%
Rebounding Margin -6 4
Turnovers Per Game 11.5 12
Opp. Turnovers Per Game 17.21 11.12
Quad 1 Record 6-9 2-5
Quad 2-4 Record 18-0 23-3

Get To Know Utah State

Utah State is led by second-year head coach Ryan Odom, infamously known as the former head coach of the UMBC Retrievers, who set March Madness history with their upset of No. 1 Virginia as the No. 16 seed.

Odom will look to lead a 26-8 Aggies program to its own “upset” following a regular season that featured victories over Nevada, Boise State (2x) and Oral Roberts. The season also contained a pair of losses to Quad 4 opponents, Weber State and SMU.

In its Quad 4 losses, Utah State shot a combined 30.5% from behind the arc and turned the ball over 23 times. However, the Aggies only lost the two games by a total of six points, a common theme throughout their season.

Utah State only suffered two losses of more than 10 points all season, showcasing its ability to remain within striking distance at all times. A key reason behind its ability to remain competitive is the Aggies’ veteran experience.

Seven different upperclassmen headline the roster, leading the way in minutes. Sophomore forward Zee Hamoda is the youngest player to regularly receive playing time, averaging 12.3 minutes per game.

Junior Steven Ashworth is one of five Utah State players averaging double figures, doing so from the point guard spot. Ashworth owns one of the slickest shooting strokes in the nation, knocking down 43.9% of his 3-point attempts as well as 87.6% of his free throws.

HIs dynamic shooting touch is not the only one on the Aggies’ roster. Max Shulga (36.9%), Sean Bairstow (38%) and Taylor Funk (37.8%) all light it up from 3-point range, making Utah State a truly lethal opponent.

Whenever the Aggies want a shot within the arc, they turn to the tandem of 7-foot-1 Trevin Dorius and 6-foot-9 Dan Akin. The pair grab 10.9 rebounds per game and blocked 58 shots this season.

Akin is the primary problem on the interior, shooting 66.5% on two-point attempts. The senior center also grabs defensive rebounds on 23% of opponents’ misses and excels at drawing fouls, a trait he’ll look to use against Missouri’s tandem of Noah Carter and Mohamed Diarra.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at UNLV Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

As evidenced by its lack of roster depth, Utah State actually ranks toward the bottom of the nation in bench minutes. The Aggies run an eight-man rotation with little deviation, displaying a willingness to allow players to play with two fouls.

This decision has paid off for Utah State, which owns an offensive (13th) and defensive efficiency (64th) that ranks among the nation’s top-65. Unsurprisingly, the Aggies also rank 11th(!) in the nation with a 38.5% 3-point shooting tally. They also thrive on ball movement, a similar characteristic to the Tigers.

However, like most teams, Utah State does have weaknesses.

The Aggies turn the ball over on 15.8% of their possessions, struggling specifically with ball-handling. Opponents are able to grab a steal on more than 7 percent of Utah State’s possessions, a mouth-watering number if you’re D’Moi Hodge.

Similar to Missouri, opponents also shoot free throws at an extremely high level against the Aggies. Teams have tallied a 74.2% mark on shots from the charity stripe, slightly better than the Tigers’ 75.2%.

When looking at disparities between the two first round opponents, there are not many.

Both teams grab offensive rebounds at an average rate, but Utah State does do a much-better job at limiting opponents’ offensive boards. That characteristic helps to explain its +6 rebounding margin.

They each also obtain most of their points within the 3-point arc, so this contest will likely come down to who is the better sharpshooting team. However, Utah State also earns nearly 20% of its points via the free throw line, good for No. 94 in the nation.

The Aggies are an all-around threat. They have an ability to match Missouri up-tempo nature and 3-point shooting ability, characteristics that should make this game one of the most thrilling and high-scoring games of the tournament.

Both teams boast experience, up-and-coming head coaches as well as a desire to turn the tide on their respective programs. These aspects make this game a true toss-up as a pair of offensive juggernauts take off in Sacramento.

3 Keys To The Game

1. Force Turnovers...and CAPITALIZE.

Missouri is a team that prides itself on creating havoc for opposing offenses and then turning those mistakes into points.

The Tigers showcase an ability to throw out a number of different defensive looks, each with an ability to make opponents uncomfortable and rushed. That variety and determination is a main reason why Mizzou ranks eighth in the nation in turnovers forced per game.

Utah State is a program that has struggled with turnovers, leaving them quite vulnerable to the Tigers’ scheme. Shulga, Ashworth and Akin each had over 55 turnovers this season, making them primary targets for Missouri’s defense.

However, the Tigers have found difficulties, at times throughout the season, in translating those miscues into points. In a win-or-go-home game, capitalizing on those turnovers and translating them into points on the board will be vital.

2. Knock down the 3-PT shots

The 3-pointer fuels Missouri’s offense, and they’ll need a full engine of those shots on Thursday.

Utah State allows opponents to shoot 34.3% from behind the arc, about average in the nation. However, that mark trended up to 35.6% in conference play against tougher opponents, and that’ll be where the Tigers need to be aggressive.

D’Moi Hodge, Kobe Brown, Nick Honor, Noah Carter and DeAndre Gholston are the names to watch for the Tigers, who will likely lean on those five to shoot a high quantity of 3-pointers.

Similar to past games, Missouri will look to utilize off-ball movement, ball screen and switches to create open looks. This game plan could work to perfection against an Utah State program that flashes size but may not counter with the same speed as the Tigers’ guards.

This 3-point barrage is going to have to start early though because the Aggies are primed to do some damage of their own.

3. Run shooters off the 3-PT line

It’s no secret that Missouri lives and dies by the 3-pointer.

Luckily, the same can be said for Utah State.

The Aggies own the nation’s 10th-best mark on shots from behind the arc, featuring four different players who have potential to light it up from downtown. To say it would be important for the Tigers to prevent uncontested 3-pointers is an understatement.

Missouri, which allows opponents to knock down 35.4% of their 3-point attempts, will need to display a strong improvement on the perimeter. This’ll likely require a heavier dose of man-to-man defense without as much of a reliance on zone. At the same time, the Tigers will need to keep an eye on off-ball movement and early shot clock opportunities.

It won’t be easy for Mizzou, but it will likely have to play some of its best perimeter defense of the season for at least 40 minutes to contain Utah State’s explosiveness.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Colorado State Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Game Prediction

My Prediction: Missouri 84 | Utah State 82

KenPom Prediction: Utah State 83 | Missouri 79

Missouri will be put to the test against Utah State all afternoon, but I believe the Tigers will prevail behind their experience in late-game situations and offensive production.

On the season, Mizzou is 8-0 in games decided by five points of less. The Tigers have a knack for being able to win close games behind their efficient 3-point offense and horde of players who can make game-changing plays.

Additionally, Missouri has not lost a game this season in which it scored at least 70 points, and while these type of statistics may matter less in March, it’s indicative of the team Gates has built in Columbia.

Utah State and its prolific shooters will no doubt leave its impression upon the NCAA Tournament, but the Aggies’ turnover woes are a serious issue when facing a team like the Tigers.

Odom is no stranger to rallying his team in times of desperation, which will pose quite the challenge throughout the first half. But look for a strong second half from Missouri and Hodge to send the Tigers to the second round for the first time since 2010.